Monday 11 March 2024

Forest of Dean & Somerset Levels with Oriole Birding - Day 4 - 11th March 2024

It turned out to be an interesting night at The Swan with something triggering fare alarms across the town centre at about 1.30am.  Thankfully it was calm and not cold outside for the enforced evacuation but no sooner were we all back inside than it went off once again but this did give the opportunity to hear a Tawny Owl!  Sleep was a little hard to come by after this and I think we were all battling weariness today.

However we started on time and made our way down to a murky Greylake where the water levels had dropped and the duck numbers decreased since January.  Unfortunately this had taken both the Baikal and Green Winged Teals with them but there were still many lovely Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler to scan through.

Great White Egrets were liberally scattered across the marsh with eight visible at one stage and after brief views of one pair of flying Cranes we found another pair more content to go about their breakfast routine.  Bugling was heard from both pairs while a solitary Lapwing tried its best to see off the various Marsh Harriers and Buzzards.

Great White Egret



A Dunlin and several Snipe were with the duck and two Curlews included one that burst into full song transporting us back to heathery uplands. Carol saw another Kingfisher while a Bittern boomed and Water Rails were noisy but hidden all around us.

Cetti’s Warblers were also quite shouty but unlike the Rails afforded us some stunning views as they foraged with a couple of Chiffchaffs in the Reedmace and Phragmites.  Fieldfares and Redwings were feeding in a grassy field with some Starlings and a couple of Roe Deer were out on the marshes.

Our loop from here took us back through Westhay Moor where there were still heaps of Egrets in the flooded maize fields with at least 12 Great Whites and 30 or so Littles but still not one Cattle.  A flock of Linnets performed close to the van and two Egyptian Geese were something of a surprise while a male Stonechat caught flies from a Willow.

Down the road a way we found where the Cattle Egrets had been ‘hiding’ with about 140 spread out around a flooded pasture and a herd of Red Poll cattle.  Many were starting to sport some colour on the back and crown with the odd one with some pinky in the bill. 

Cattle Egrets

Relived to have discovered them we made our way to the Avalon Centre for a coffee and lunch with Grey Wagtails, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Fieldfares for company before starting out on the walk into Decoy Lake which took us along the Sweet Track (the Neolithic pathway constructed in 3807 BC).  It is a true step back in time and was once again home to some stunning mosses, fungi and mighty Birches.


There were a few small birds with Goldcrest, Siskins, Tits and Treecreeper but it was a bouncy performance from a gleaming Firecrest that brought the smiles.

Common Tamarisk-Moss - Thuidium tamariscinium

Scarlet Elf Cup

Scarlet Elf Cup



One of the Wandering Snails

Peltigara didactyla or P membranacea

Peltigara didactyla or P membranacea

Just before the hide the first Bittern was heard along with some croaking Common Frogs and then I picked up a pair of Ring-necked Ducks drifting across the view.  We all had a quick look from the track and then headed to the hide for unimpeded views of this smart trans-Atlantic duo. The light was actually good and even the bronzy neck ring could be seen on the drake although we all agreed that Ring-billed Duck would be much better.

Ring-necked Ducks

Two other female RNDs were soon found a little closer to us as they actively fed with some Tufted Ducks – four RNDs on the same lake! Great White Egrets were moving to and from their platform nests and a second Bittern boomed while Great Crested Grebes were seen in pairs across the lake.  


Tufted and female Ring-necked Duck

female Ring-necked Duck #2

female Ring-necked Duck #3

Pleased with our ducky success we retraced our steps finding three Roe Deer back up near the main path as well as a single Eristalis pertinax Hoverfly basking in the path.

Great White Egret


Eristalis pertinax -  1st two pairs of feet are orange

An amazingly oozy, sappy freshly cut Birch 

Roe Deer

Ham Wall was the final stop for the day and we spent a content and relaxed 90 minutes down at the main view point having seen about 70 more Cattle Egrets with a large gull flock in some distant pasture.  Bittern was our quarry but although two frequently boomed we never did see one but were equally content with the numerous Great Whites and Marsh Harrier fly-bys, two Grey Herons brooding on reedbed nests, more stroppy Water Rails and some very obliging Robins, Chaffinches, Blue and Great Tits that came down for some crumbs we put out.


Marsh Harrier

The temperature had started to drop and we sauntered back listening to the ummmm bahhs of the Bitterns and watching a full breeding garb Great White Egret wiggle his toes in an effort to disturb his fishy supper.

Great White Egret 

1 comment:

  1. Glad you saw the ring necked ducks so well